The Day That Hope Was Restored

The past four years have felt extremely dark at times, this year being the darkest of them all.

I was extremely excited for Tuesday. I know many of us were. Tuesday felt like a day that held just as much importance as a personal milestone or a favorite holiday. But when the day did not yield immediate results, as our culture has become accustomed to in all facets of life, it became one more day of fear. One more day we had to wait. And then another. And another.

I’m embarrassed to say that even after countless hours watching MSNBC last week, when the news officially broke on Saturday morning I was giving myself a mental break from election coverage. Instead I was watching the Great British Baking Show – not the most exciting “where were you” moment, but oh well.

When I remember this past Saturday, I will remember watching Kamala Harris’ acceptance speech. While I thought I had already experienced the flood of feelings, of relief, joy, and excitement for the future, when I watched Vice President Elect Harris take the stage, I broke. I wept with joy and with pride to see a woman, representing us all. A woman who represents women of color and of Asian and Indian descent. May she be the first of many to bring diversity to our government, ushering in change and showing young people everywhere that this is a possibility for them, too. When I cried I felt the relief, the weight lifting off all of our shoulders, the realization that we can move forward now. It is a day I will always remember.

The light at the end of the tunnel is so much brighter and finally within our reach. There is hope that we will see progress in our country again. This weekend marked not only the return of progression, but also the return of respect – respect for humanity and diversity. We no longer have to tolerate a president who is tearing us apart and tearing us away from the rest of the world. Hate is not acceptable, and it is not welcome here. May we come together and fix what has been broken. May we look to our two new leaders and the fellow leaders they will choose, to guide us, to break glass ceilings that restrain us, and to help us better relate to one another as Americans.

Dancing At Home – 6 Struggles that have Made Me Grateful for the Ballet Studio

“All of these challenges, while conquerable, help us to realize what a gift it is to dance in a studio.”

I live in a small apartment. It’s about 740 square feet — just barely enough for two adults, all their stuff, and one cute beagle. I’ve never had negative feelings about living in a small space though. Considering the fact that we will be moving soon and it’s not permanent, I try not to stress about it. But the past six months has had me wishing I had infinite square footage, or at least a spare room at my disposal.

These are my top home studio complaints and struggles. I don’t think that I’m alone when I say that we may have taken some things for granted when we were in the studio…

1.) Finding justtt the right space – My home ballet journey has definitely evolved over the past six (now almost seven?!) months. When this all started, it seemed like such a funny, novelty moment to grab my dance bag, dress for class, and head to the kitchen. I first deemed the kitchen to be the best space for ballet purely because of the floor — our kitchen and bathroom are the only areas with a hard linoleum surface; everywhere else is carpeted. As the months wore on though, I found myself setting up in the living room instead. This began partially due to the fact that I was switching spaces mid-class anyway, in order to allow my legs enough room to extend and rond de jambe by the time I reached fondus. I basically tired of the mid-class move and started sticking it out for the whole class in the living room. This is my new norm, and I can also easily pop on a YouTube barre and follow along from the TV.

2.) “The commute” – Commuting to dance class used to involve me hopping in the car with my dance bag and driving about 15 to 20 minutes into Charlottesville. While dancing from home eliminates the commute, there’s also a whole slew of things I need to do to prep for a class that basically add up to a commute time when all is said and done. When I was taking class from the kitchen, I found myself constantly having to wipe down the counters, move drying dishes, give the floor a quick sweep, move our kitchen floor mat, etc. I am a bit embarrassed to say that one time during a Zoom ballet class I even went so far as to pop some roasted potatoes in the oven, turn off my camera once they were done, remove them from the oven, and then turn my camera back on like nothing had happened (what is life).

The many faces of dancing in the kitchen…Can we also acknowledge that Skylar Brandt shared me to her story?!

3.) Distractions abound – It is a constant struggle to focus when there are other things going on in your apartment. Not to mention easily accessible snacks! Going to a studio there is always a clear mission, a defined moment for myself to dance, exercise, and enjoy the art form. But at home the intention can get so clouded by everything else.

4.) Technical difficulties – If these were listed based on “most challenging to deal with”, this would definitely be rated number one. The list of potential tech problems is long: freezing, audio problems, loss of internet connection, loss of power (I can never remember to keep my computer charged), finding a successful camera angle — you know the drill. Fine tuning your tech set up is an art form in itself. While I feel like I’ve learned a lot about technology in the process, I also still feel very much like a confused 31-year-old.

“Overall, there is a lesson to be learned — a lesson in patience…”

I took a lot of these towards the beginning of quarantine, thinking it would be fun to see how many classes I took in the kitchen…and then the novelty wore off…

5.) Aches and pains – While tech problems are frustrating, the aches and pains of dancing in an unconventional space are hard to deal with as well. To be honest, there have been times when I have had to simply admit defeat. Without a sprung floor or marley for some cushion and support, there have been moments when it is just too painful for my body. While I like my current set up working in the living room, it does also put a lot of extra stress on my hip flexors and calves — as I constantly must try to lift up and out of my heels and my hips, “out of the carpet” essentially. I’ve taken a break from center work for a bit because the carpet poses too big of an obstacle sometimes. While I already am not much of turner, carpet makes the push to turn quite difficult and has made my landings very questionable, to say the least. While the kitchen floor provided nice solid footing for a while, that too became an irritant, inflaming my bunions and the soles of my feet.

“I’m not in the way, am I?”

6.) Dancing with pets – While I love my dog, there has definitely been a learning curve in trying to complete a class with my beagle nearby. We’ve had some good moments and some laughable moments. While I used to just start a class and hope for the best, I now know that I’m going to have the best results if my dog is occupied and/or tired. Oliver is now a pro at staying out of the way of my workouts and ballet classes, but it took us a while to get here. Let’s just say that he’s very aware of Zoom and FaceTime. He’s found his own unique way to participate in some classes — both sitting directly in front of me during Pilates so my teacher can’t see me and standing too close during ballet. He’s not a fan of frappes anymore!

Trying to stay on the positivity train!

Overall, there is a lesson to be learned — a lesson in patience, something I don’t always have much of. All of these challenges, while conquerable, help us to realize what a gift it is to dance in a studio. It is such a blessing to have access to dance education in a quality space, with friends and students who are also invested in the arts surrounding us. While this time is difficult, it has also given me moments I will never forget — plenty of laughs, Oliver howling at other pets on Zoom, taking an afternoon to teach my mom a virtual class. While virtual isn’t necessarily best, we can still have those human moments with one another — gathering in a common “space” of sorts, to dance and be “together”.

For Those Who Feel Lost

“Everyone is on a journey we know nothing about.”

If you are a planner like me, you may also be wondering why you are not further along on your journey than your naive teenage self thought you would be at this point. I assumed that by now I would be at the peak of my career, married with one or two children, and a homeowner. Some individuals have all this and more, and I genuinely applaud you. But we all have different expectations for ourselves, and we all make different decisions along the way.  Personally, I am not exactly checking off all the boxes I thought I would in my own vision. What’s to blame? College debt? The pandemic? Or is it that I am simply in a different place in my life than I thought I would be? 

The past year I have been in a long period of limbo. As my significant other is hard at work completing his PhD, I made the decision to stop teaching last fall in anticipation of our move. For a week or two at the end of last summer, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do for work. I was a mess of nerves. I finally pieced together a plan for myself, and,  thankfully, within a couple of weeks, my schedule went from utterly empty to full again. The only downside was that aside from some private lessons and subbing gigs, my path from August 2019 to late summer 2020 did not include any dancing or teaching whatsoever. If you know me at all, you know that that is my life. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it hurt my heart. I miss my students more than I can say.

There was a plus side though that kept me going (until COVID-19 hit): I was able to attend many more ballet classes than usual. From September to February, I attended an array of adult, company/trainee, and academic classes. It really was a glimmering silver lining to the whole situation. Although I felt out of touch with my career path, I had time to devote to myself and my dancing.

“I feel rather lost…in all honesty, I am having trouble finding the humor and the bright side anymore…I believe we still have a long way to go.”

My last post was full of optimism and hope…and coincidentally it was written in early February 2020, about one month before the world took a turn for the worst. Fast forward to September 2020, six months into COVID times, and I feel like the “we can do this”, honeymoon vibes of this whole situation have utterly evaporated. I feel rather lost. When this began, I was eagerly baking every day, Netflix and chillin’ with bae, spring cleaning, and laughing off the comedy of dancing in my carpeted living room. But in all honesty, I am having trouble finding the humor and the bright side anymore. Many things have improved – no more wiping down the groceries, and I have taken a few classes in studio with a mask on – but things are so different. I believe we still have a long way to go.

The past year I have struggled immensely with the constant need to meet other people’s expectations. This pandemic has forced many to try to compensate for the hard times. We feel like we need to have some moment of enlightenment or make big changes, since we have the time to do so at home. But what if we just admit to ourselves that this is hard, and we are struggling? Every day I find myself dwelling on the fact that I have strayed from my path…wondering when this will all sort out. I feel like I have to explain myself and give excuses, but you know what? I do not need to rise to the expectations of others. I try to remind myself (and I remind YOU) that I do not have to tell the whole story all the time if I do not want to. This is hard, and we don’t have to pretend that it’s not.

Everyone is on a journey we know nothing about. A journey that may be filled with positive turns…or perhaps one that has been filled with ups and downs and a current destination that they want to change. The important thing is remembering that you can change your story if you want to. It is not always easy, and you may have to ask for help. You may have to do something extremely difficult to get yourself to the other side. If you are still lost, that is OKAY. Your story is unique to you – Know that you are not alone and keep walking.

My Thing: Confessions Of An Artist…Ballerina…Teacher…Work In Progress…& Human Being.

“It is comforting to know that I am not alone.”

I’ve always done the same “thing”. For years I haven’t wavered, wondered, or had to get creative (from being creative). It’s just the way my life has always been. I knew exactly what I wanted, how to get there, and what my most immediate plan of action was.

I have always been a dancer and a dance teacher…an active participant in the arts. However, I also always assumed that when the time came for me to move on to my next “thing”, I would know exactly what that should be and how to seamlessly transition. I thought it would be obvious how to achieve my next goal, and it would make me nearly as happy as performing…a close second, let’s say.

I’m still dancing now. It’s nowhere near the commitment and schedule I used to juggle as a performer, but I just don’t want to fully give up yet. I completed my first gig as a freelance artist last year and hope to dive into other similar ventures in the future (wink, wink). But in this new-ish phase of my life, there’s the nagging question, “what’s next?” I rack my brain frequently. For a few months this winter, the question kept me up at night. I’m always searching for answers and ideas that I might not have uncovered yet, in my quest for self. “What else can I do?” “What else am I good at?” “Do I want to go back to school?” And the ever practical, “Can I make ends meet, in the process?” I know what’s meant to be, will be, but I have never been the patient one who is willing to relax, loosen the reigns, and find out.

“There is also a huge…part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place.  It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect.”

 

I’m so happy to be back in this blog-space of mine, and I apologize for the huge delay. I have been at a loss..for time and for the right words. There is also a huge (more than I’d like to admit) part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place. It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect. But the further on I venture, I am able to realize and make peace with the fact that no one and nothing is perfect.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone. My professional life as a dancer has been spent surrounded by AMAZING, CARING, BRILLIANT individuals. As I reach a pointed toe out for the next stepping stone of my life, I know that I am not the first to make this type of journey, or experience the vast array of emotions that come along with it. Many of my friends no longer dance professionally, or, like me, are currently trying to figure out what’s next.

Admittedly, I still feel at a loss at times…overwhelmingly sad and disappointed. Supporting and sharing my knowledge with my students means the world to me, but I envy all the days they have ahead. Those terrifying, exciting, nerve-racking shows, auditions, classes…I wish someone had told me to truly relish in them…or at least that I had listened.

It’s scary not to know exactly what’s next. But for every confusing, difficult, heart wrenching moment when I miss the intensity of the life that I had, there is another moment in which I appreciate what is wonderful now. I still have “my thing”. I am able to experience ballet…What if nothing else makes me happy? {At least I’m still able to fly.}

Versatility At Its Finest

Hello Dancers And Friends!

I’d like to address a special blogging award I received about a month and a half ago (apologies for my lateness!), called the Versatile Blogger Award. Many thanks to The Book Swag, which I very much enjoy following, for the nomination! Check it out!!! –  https://thebookswag.wordpress.com/

versatile-blogger-award

The Rules are basically as follows…

  • Thank the person who gave you the award & include a link to their blog! 
  • Select & nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Share 7 things about yourself…that your blog followers may not already know…
  • Display your VBA award!

As my blog approaches its second anniversary (!!!), I’m very happy and honored to receive some recognition from fellow bloggers/talented writers within the online writing community. 🙂 As a dancer, inside and outside of the studio, my mind is always creating something. I’m so grateful to have this outlet for myself. This space is extremely cathartic and essential to my artistic personality now, and it is thrilling to receive positive feedback regarding my thoughts. Thank you, wherever and whoever you may be for your support, your ‘shares’, your comments, and for simply taking the time to read what’s on my mind. Without further ado, here’s a little fun for this week…

7 Things You Might Not Know About Ms. J.O.D. (that’s me!)

1.) Some of my little adorable students call me “Ms. Ballerina”, or occasionally even just – “Miss Ballet”.

2.) I don’t only teach children, I also supervise them. My current (other) part time jobs include child care employee at ACAC and nanny/babysitter. Do I want to have children of my own someday? Yes. However, for now, it’s quite enjoyable to have the option to designate the care of the children I supervise back to their lucky parents!

3.) Although I am a professional dancer and have a lot of flexibility to draw from, I have basically zero gymnastic skills. I hate being upside down, can’t stand on my head or my hands, can’t quite do a cartwheel, and although I can invert and do a backward roll, know that I am faking it like crazyyyyyy each time….

4.) In another life, or maybe sometime in this one, I would love to be a baker or a chef. I can’t get enough of my cooking shows and baking competition shows. Favorites include, Chopped, The Next Great Baker, Cupcake Wars, Giada At Home, and (don’t judge) The Pioneer Woman.

5.) I know this isn’t quite original, but coffee is one of my great loves. I only drink about three cups of coffee a day, but I like it in its purest form-black, no sugar, no cream, just pure, rich deliciousness. I like drinking espresso straight from a demitasse cup, and I could live at Starbucks.

6.) I love me some word games – Scrabble, Bananagrams, word searches, I’m all over it.

7.) Although I’m proud of being a big girl (now!)/adult and moving away from home, onto bigger and better things, I get homesick. I LOVE my family, and I get fam withdrawal if I’m away for too long. I call my Mom and Dad every day to catch up/bother them.

I NOMINATE –
You Have Time To Read, In My Ginger Nature, Tendus Under A Palm Tree, Setting The Barre, loved.chosen.beautiful.enough, The Renegade Press, Dance Healthier, A Ballet Of Life, Corporal Culture, Tutus And Tea, Gretchen Rubin, gregfallis.com, My OBT,  Butterfly Mind (new to me, excited to follow! I love this post in particular)